Two great Nigerian military generals are currently in the news and interestingly so. Of course, these two great generals have since retired from the Nigerian Army, our great Army that has seen interestingly rough and perilous times, including several successful coups and failed coups. The two generals in question clearly were forced out of our Army and their respective commands when they were not really set to quit, and at a time when their military mangoes seemed to be at their best season and geography of ripeness. Indeed, how succulent were their mangoes at the time compulsion compelled them to go – or, better put, at their seeming ripest hour of greatness when compulsion got rid of them.
Ladies and gentlemen, – my titled and untitled audience, my dear readers, my dear, dear readers of warmth, – who are our great generals in the news? Who are the great generals who have played more than sufficient roles in our military and political and economic affairs? Did I just say that the generals “have played more than sufficient roles in our military and political and economic affairs?” How eagerly and mischievously wrong am I? Clearly, the said generals are still playing and will always play more than sufficient roles in our country from the “ups and downs of politics,” the vicissitudes of commerce, economics and petroleum and the exigencies of military passions and sensibilities. And the thought expressed here, in this preceding sentence, must be one reason why the generals will always be in the news – as they recently are – until they engage in their final war against one another, a war that we shall find is not a camping party or holiday excursion or soldierly retreat of retired generals.
Let me alight from my soaring aero-plane of suspense. Our current civilian president, a seventeen months military head of state, in times past, and our one and only military president of above seven years, also in times past, are our two great generals recently in the news.
Our major newspapers, including the almighty Nigerian Tribune, this newspaper that rarely misfires/misfiles when it comes to news reports, gave us on Monday, July 25, 2016, an interesting summary of an exclusive interview published in the recent edition of The Interview Magazine relating to retired generals Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. In the brief report, we read a pertinent glimpse of the past of the two preeminent generals. What happened between both military gentlemen thirty-one years ago has come to us in what my writing imagination is compelling me to call a precious time of “moral equivalent of war”- actually the title of a recently re-read essay. President Buhari is waging a spiritual and moral war against corruption in our country. Whether or not his current war is partial or semi-partial or merely cosmetic or idealistic is not really important now. What I find moving as I shoot my memory and imagination to the past, the past that the afore-said interview has rekindled, is the legend of Buhari’s “integrity, honesty and fairness” that surfaces. As a national newspaper informs us, by way of reference to the cited interview, “Shagari once exonerated Buhari of complicity in the coup that toppled his government, saying, ‘it was when those boys that overthrew our government were looking for someone with integrity, honesty, and fairness to be the head of their government, that was when Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s name came in.’” The names of those who played prominent roles in the Shagari-overthrow were given in the newspaper, Daily Sun, report. In fact, we were given the name of the general who recommended Buhari for the military mango job, a recommendation which all the major dramatis personae accepted.
But the catch of The Interview Magazine report paraphrased by the different dailies is this: “Babangida overthrew Buhari to escape probe,” as newspapers, in various guises, put it. So Buhari is after all a truly daring warrior against corruption? Thirty-one years ago he dared his primary constituency, and the gap-toothed general and his fellow band of like-minds got rid of him before he got rid of them. What was rumoured thirty-one years ago has now come out of the very mouth of the moral general who is now in the prime position to reduce the mischievous betrayers of thirty-one years ago to the dreadful necessity of the present. If Buhari is legendarily right with respect to the legendary story of his legendary betrayal and legendarily repugnant overthrow, he should revisit the past without qualms. The ancient looters of our common-wealth, the hunting generals of yester-years who hunted us up and down must be part of the current permissible war and justice against corruption. It does not matter if Buhari’s sacred war may inspire another war of the generals. What matters is that Buhari’s justice will fetch us the ideal harvest – if what he recently reveals is correct.
And our honest and fair general – if we must believe Alhaji Shehu Shagari – must go the whole hog: He must re-visit Journalist Dele Giwa’s death by a mystery bomb under his usurper’s watch, and the Halliburton and plunders and other plunders in the land. If he can descend on the generals he is descending on now, is it the old, past band of generals he cannot flatten? The piratical generals of the past are no less guilty than the irrational generals of the present. The ensuing war my writing imagination is igniting is giving me an exotically exciting expensive fascination.
Maybe after reading this IBB and his fellow brethren of yester-years of voracious power will quietly go to “General Integrity” and plead that bygones should be bygones. Or shouldn’t the past bury the past? But we must sound this alarm: Retribution’s law never fails, as it never ceases. Yes, but ultimately it is better to be a victim than to be a victimizer. I accept and applaud both choices.